Free Kevin, Kevin Freed

by Jason Kroll

At 6:30 AM PST, Friday January 21st, Kevin Mitnick was finally released from prison after nearly five years of being held without bail and without trial since his arrest in February of 1995. He was indicted on 25 counts of computer and wire fraud, to which he initially pleaded “not guilty.” He was ultimately coerced into a guilty plea when it became clear that the government intended to keep him in prison indefinitely pending confession, and that a guilty plea would accelerate his release. In his recent plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to 5 of the federal charges. The terms of his release leave him penniless, in debt, and not allowed to talk about computers, or use a cellular or cordless phone, for the next three years. He lists “gardening” as one occupation open to him; even fast food work would violate the terms of his release. The circumstances surrounding Kevin's imprisonment have been the source of scandal and controversy for the years he has been incarcerated. He is the Kevin of the FREE KEVIN movement.

How he got there.

Kevin had been charged with innocuous computer crimes before, once in 1989 when he was accused of breaking into corporate networks and copying random files (the typical trophy-taking procedure of curious network explorers), to which he pleaded guilty and served 8 months in solitary confinement on account of the judge's fear that Kevin would be a threat to national security if given access to a telephone (the specific story, as recounted in various periodicals including Forbes, is that Kevin was thought to be able to launch nuclear missiles by whistling into a telephone. Kevin was also recently placed in solitary due to fears that he could use an FM radio for similar nefarious purposes. Most recently, he was denied use of a modemless laptop to review 9GB of evidence against him for fear that he could be particularly dangerous with such technology).

With the memory of this eight-month trauma fresh in his mind, Kevin disappeared on Christmas eve of 1992 to avoid further questioning about more alleged exploits. He was consequently reported to have made it to the FBI's “Most Wanted List,” (though this turns out to be a complete lie despite its reputable source); and was taken into custody in a big media spectacle after New York Times writer John Markoff, who calculatingly used his position to construct the Mitnick myth (with numerous fabrications, including the above-mentioned “Most Wanted” myth as well as the story that Mitnick as a teenager had electronically broken into NORAD), coordinated with computer user Tsutomu Shimomura and the FBI to find Kevin, write a book about him, and sell movie rights.

Following his arrest, Kevin was denied a bail hearing and accused of $299,927,389.61 in damages. Sun Microsystems alleged that, by downloading the source code to Solaris (which was available for $100, and apparently free for students), Kevin had cost the company $80 million, a figure which Sun failed to report to its stockholders and to the SEC, despite legal obligation to do so. In fact, none of the companies that alleged losses (also including Motorola, Fujitsu, Nokia, Novell and NEC) reported anything of the sort either to their shareholders or to the SEC. It turns out the government had coached these firms in how to estimate their damages, although even the government hadn't expected them to be able to arrive at such an enormous figure. Eventually the feds convinced the court that $80 million was the most reasonable estimate (much greater than the $1.5 million which the government had first alleged—but less than the later $300 million corporate allegations). In the end, estimates severely eroded and Kevin was ordered to pay restitution of a little over $4000.

Outrage and protests

Kevin's case sparked outrage across the Internet because of the flagrant violations of civil rights and the cruel, authoritarian tactics of the government (including use of evidence which was seized illegally). In journalist communities, many questioned the ethics of Markoff, who profitted handsomely, was friends with Shimomura and had a hand in the FBI takedown—facts which he and the New York Times concealed from his readers. Civil rights groups from the ACLU to Amnesty International and the EFF refused to stand up for Kevin, with excuses ranging from not understanding the situation clearly to not wanting to be associated with “computer hackers.”

Although many people were frightened and intimidated by the spectacle, certain communities stood up for Kevin and opposed the civil rights violations, government collusion, zealous persecution, and the intrusion of the government in computer technology. The most vocal of these was the 2600 community, a loosely knit but intelligent and dedicated lot oriented around the eponymous magazine also known as the Hacker Quarterly. Spearheaded by Emmanuel Goldstein (Eric Corley), the community led the FREE KEVIN campaign, which ranged in events from distributing information, collecting defense fund donations, exposing civil rights violations and government collusion, leaking documents and sponsoring protests. Smaller protests localized around movie theaters in order to distribute the truth about Kevin's predicament to movie-goers likely to see the upcoming Takedown, the heavily fraudulent movie somehow inspired by Markoff and Shimomura's book. The height of the protests came on June 4th, however, when protesters gathered by the dozens outside of federal court-houses across America and at the US embassy in Moscow, with a clear message: FREE KEVIN. A sky writer even sprayed FREE KEVIN across the sky in New York, while an airplane toted a sign. And, although not endorsed or encouraged, dozens of websites across the world (including the New York Times) had their pages replaced by FREE KEVIN messages, placed there by Kevin supporters who favored law-skirting PR tactics.

The protests did not lead to Kevin's immediate release; he never got bail and never got a trial. However, they did raise awareness across the board, exposing the immeasurable ignorance of the government as regards computers, the maliciousness of the courts and the medieval tactic of “making an example” out of Kevin, so typical in computer crime. In centuries past, he might have been impaled or crucified.

Kevin's plight touched many lives, thanks to countless supporters of all age groups. Young supporters often wrote school essays or articles for their school newspapers, and now educators all over the country are aware of this esoteric, yet critical civil rights issue. FREE KEVIN even appeared on national television and in numerous media venues such as Forbes, Wired, and ZDNet (bonus points if you find the “freekevin” in Linux Journal). Even Miramax, who was producing the Takedown movie, apparently re-worked the script to remove many of the defamatory allegations (such as Kevin making racial slurs and physically assaulting Shimomura with a garbage can, which is ironic since Kevin had never been anywhere remotely close to Shimomura).

Although on one level Kevin is remembered as an early contributor to the Linux kernel [a memory which the facts do not corroborate], today he is more of an example to all computer users of the dangers of zealous, authoritarian government, which isn't exactly the example the feds hoped to make. Americans tolerated the government's Drug War for years, despite its grievous offenses against civil liberties and civil rights. However, now that the government is arbitrarily stalking the computer community, more people are resisting and fighting back.

The Rallying of Communities

DeCSS is one important rallying point which brought the Linux community and the 2600 community closer together. Although the former has looked down upon the latter (often using derogatory terms such as “cracker”) and although members of the 2600 community have often been critical of weak security on earlier Linux systems (often paying due respect to NetBSD and FreeBSD), both communities rallied together to make sure the DeCSS source code was available all over the net. The “Whack the Mole” technique (as one Slashdotter named it) in this case was a joint effort, a mutual decision by everyone involved to defy the law, in effect declaring, one step at a time, the illegitimacy of government in affairs of computers, cryptography and the Net. Both Slashdot (itself a perfect example of the potential unity of diverse computing communities) and 2600 have been accosted by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) for their role in distributing DeCSS, and a fight-to-the-death legal battle may ensue (2600, a pillar of its own ethics and integrity, steadfastly refuses to be coerced or intimidated as a matter of principle, and as a result may go down in flames, though I bet it will triumph). As a typical sign of changing times for these traditionally divergent communities, VA Linux's Chris DiBona is referenced right on the 2600 homepage, along with the EFF (which professes not to be a defense fund for crackers). So much for stories of “crackers” being closed and secretive types who associate with no one but themselves.

What does this mean for the Linux community?

In so far as there are divisions within the Linux scene, there have traditionally been three figureheads who stand for slightly different world-views: Linus Torvalds, self-proclaimed top programmer in the world, author of the kernel and all around popular and charming fellow, embraces everyone from the commercial sector to the free software community, and is a favorite of techies, kernel hackers and the press; Eric Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative, identified the open source methodology and brought it to the masses when he encouraged Netscape to open up, formulated The Cathedral and the Bazaar which laid the groundwork identifying the bazaar (open source) approach to software development and also developed an economic model which, though not entirely accurate, provides the kind of “selfish agent” model business people are looking for, as well as business models for leveraging open source, and is a favorite of those people known as “suits” and those committed to “living in a world where software doesn't suck” (regardless of whether or not it is free); and Richard Stallman, whose 15 years of work produced the FSF, GNU Project, free software movement, and most of the important software that runs on Linux, has always been a purist for free software and stresses community, freedom and philosophy. Hence Stallman is popular with anti-commercial sectors, the “free software community” (slightly different from the open source community or the Linux community), long-time free software advocates, a lot of leftist types who are repulsed by laissez-faire, free market rhetoric and consider free software more a socialist/anarchist creation than a product of the free market, and those who value the philosophy of free software over the methodology of open source or the specific technical virtues of any given kernel or software package. To oversimply grossly (and make a rather arbitrary construction), we could say that Linus is the figurehead of the Linux community, Eric is the figurehead of the open source community, and Richard is the figurehead of the free software community. When we speak of the Linux community, though, we generally mean a vague, inclusive assortment of the three, and in my mind anyone who uses Linux or otherwise identifies with Linux is definitely part of our community, though others may disagree.

Unfortunately, these camps seem to have written off the Mitnicks of this world as “crackers”. Indeed, the Linux, open source and free software communities have almost uniformly been on a quest to abolish the 'misuse' of the word “hacker” to refer to those who discover security holes and explore the matrix. Eric S. Raymond (known as ESR), is very explicit about this point in The New Hacker's Dictionary, explaining the origins of the term “hacker” and how the word has been villainized by the media. He even jokes in his How to Become a Hacker about the hefty prison sentences levied against seemingly innocuous network explorers. Likewise, the free software community is on too pure an idealist crusade to be involved in exploring computers whose owners do not want uninvited guests. Linux users in general are too busy building the most fantastic operating system in history to be interested in cracking techniques, and very many are system administrators who have been plagued for years by silent intruders, so there are often years of animosity coming from many Unix users. Nevertheless, our new era may bring forgiveness, buried hatchets, cooperation and, most of all, mutual understanding.

“Bonding by Mutual Ordeal”

In a bizarre turn of history, happenstance and government aggression are uniting the Linux communities with the 2600 community, bonding us by “mutual ordeal” (to use the expression of one Lonnie Princehouse, quoted in a Jon Katz article on the WTO protests in Seattle). We are all increasingly victimized by a zealous government which does not understand computers or hackers, and is consequently terrified of us and abusive. Murder makes strange bed-fellows, and authoritarianism has a peculiar characteristic of uniting brainpower against it (and authoritarians will stop at nothing to stamp out rebellions or the human spirit in general, though the flip side is that the human spirit will stop at nothing not to be stamped out). Although there isn't tremendous cross-communal love or genuine solidarity across communities as was formed, for example, among some factions of WTO protesters, reasonable people of the world are being taken hostage by inferior intellects with all the authority, and we're standing up against it. Time will tell if further assaults on our self-determination and freedom will cause the prejudices and snobbery to fall away as highly talented and intelligent computer users of varying interests and activities come together through the net for mutual survival and establishing a legacy of freedom. (To quote Doc Searls in his very ESR-like soundbite, “Freedom is an efficiency that drives value.”) Our world is changing, pardon the cliche, at the speed of light.

Not so long ago, it seems, many computer programmers had gotten accustomed to the typical paradigm: get a job at Microsoft, write proprietary code, make a lot of money, buy a fancy car and house; enforce copyright and patent laws, do what you can to get ahead, your fancy car will be the path to happiness, and do not sympathize with hackers, crackers, or revolutionaries. “Windows is the future! Get used to it!” was the mantra. “So, have ya freed Kevin yet?” was the hacker-harrying humor present among so many.

Then, as the Internet kept growing, Linux hit the scene, information became instantly accessible across the planet. No longer were people chanting, “Windows is the future, get used to it!” for it was clear that Windows was a sinking ship (or at least a stinking ship, to quote Koji Yanagisawa). Open source had been “diagnosed” and brought to the masses. The whole software development model was turned on its head, largely from what the Linux developers were doing, and also from the writings of a certain wandering trouble-maker. The anarchy of the Net changed everything... and the government crackdown on computers gained steam.

Arguably, the major recent instance of this was the “lynching” of Microsoft, a move ESR opposed as violating free market principles (though many advocated government intervention insofar as Microsoft was violating anti-trust laws, harming consumers and hurting business for competitors who pressured Congress), and a bit morally defeating for those who wanted to see Microsoft fall of its own accord. However, Al Gore, self-proclaimed inventor of the Internet, and numerous politicians had been supporting various stupid bills including Internet censorship bills, arbitrary and confused culpability bills (often making sysadmins liable for their users' actions), and numerous absurd assaults on algorithms such as mp3 (isn't it contrary free market principles to make efficiency illegal?) and DeCSS, along with reinforced copyright restrictions (extending licenses arbitrarily so that corporations could continue to profit from material that, at the time of creation, was expected to fall into the public domain soon). Our liberties have, in fact, been under assault for a very long time.

It is true that government has a long history of interfering with technology, often correcting market failures for the benefit of society (for example, the breakup of Ma Bell and the investigations into IBM which held the giant still long enough for Microsoft and others to get a foot-hold). From these institutions, both Linux hackers and security hackers began exploring on descendants of the operating system that came out of AT&T, that is, UNIX.

Recently in the World of Hacking

In the recent years, there was little distinction between a cracker and a hacker. Robert Tappan Morris, for example, was considered a hacker while a graduate student at Cornell. Then, his Internet worm got released (and really misfired), wreaking havoc on the Net, grinding roughly 10% of it to a halt and shutting down more than a few locations. He had intended, apparently, to make a simple worm that would crawl around a bit but not do any harm (in order to demonstrate a security flaw he had found in Sendmail, which is, to be fair, probably the source of more CERT advisories than anything else) but an error in the code caused a small catastrophe which was followed by government prosecution. Fortunately for RTM, he did this before the government was on a trip to make examples of people (and his father was an important fellow, which may or may not have influenced the situation), so although he was suspended from Cornell, fined, and forced to do community service, he was not, for example, held five years without bail or trial, or even sentenced to a single year in solitary (as happened to our martyr Kevin). Indeed, even Bill and Paul apparently spent much time hacking the time-sharing system at Lakeside's computer lab so as to use the machine without footing too many bills.

Hacking is probably a natural part of exploring computers, no more malicious than figuring out how to put graphics in the border of the C64, disassembling executables, running programs through hex editors or trying to crack copy-restriction schemes on early software. With a world as vast and seemingly limitless as the Net, (and especially in the days before everyone was on it, when commercialism was strictly forbidden) reaching out to the far tentacles of the matrix was an exciting way to learn what was out there, and that included digging around through various computers. What's here? It's a host. What is it? Let's get in and see. Where does it come from? What does it do? Whose is it? Why is it here? What's on it? These sorts of explorations are a large part of the excitement of youth. And it's a thrill for beginners even to use anonymous ftp to jump into NASA, for example, and download press releases. It's not much different from the time you might dialup somewhere only to find that ctrl-C drops the software to a prompt, or that you can get free telnet through the public library by typing ctrl-], or that by dropping carrier while your ship is loading fighters from a planet you can double the amount of fighters on board, or that by covering one hole on that Cap'N Crunch whistle... Indeed, computer crime, as it is often called, is one of the few ways to keep entertained in the suburbs.

To learn about a system, it is helpful to explore. The exploratory drive in humans is responsible for a bulk of scientific progress (as well as conquest, colonialism and genocide). At the very least, innocent intellectual curiosity is not a characteristic to hate in people.

People have Diverse Interests

It is true that people take different paths in life. Many people have a mind to share, to develop software and to build GNU/Linux. Future generations will probably be very grateful for this. Other people still prefer to concentrate on networking and security, they find it exciting, like cryptography or a good sci-fi thriller. Not all people can have the same interests, and when it comes to what you do with your free time, it's hard to do something that isn't what you want to do. Even within the Linux community there are those who code the kernel, those who commit to massive projects like Gnome, The Gimp, window managers, free office software, Apache, etc.; those who prefer to develop multimedia and use Linux for audio applications, and those who just want to make fun games, for example. Many Linux users just love to use Linux for the freedom, and many Linux supporters are most effective through different channels. RMS will be remembered always for creating gcc, emacs, the GNU Project and FSF, his saintly character, and his eccentricities, whereas ESR, though he authored fetchmail and numerous Emacs extensions, made the most impact through his works such as The Cathedral and the Bazaar, his economic and social analyses, his models for business, and formalizing, organizing, and promoting Open Source methodology. Linus, of course, is your typical example of someone whose big success is in the code. Nevertheless, Linux brainpower embodies more than just a bunch of kernel hackers.

Is it possible, then, that the whole computer community and indeed the world at large stands to benefit from a diversity of interests and aptitudes? In the struggle to save software, most emphasis was on developers, and indeed they did the work, with evangelists stirring up popular support and charismatically winning over a public hostile to anything vaguely ringing of socialist/anarchist overtones (good thing Raymond's a Libertarian, eh?). What about the struggle to save computing from the clutches of ignorant authority?

Is it time?

Although UNIX users grew apart and wandered off to different communities, including various BSD troupes as well as those people known as “crackers” to the Linux scene, now may be the beginning of a time when communities grow back together again, or at least gain a better understanding of each other. Too many people are quick to see a few 37337 h4x0r5 d3f4c3 4 w3bp4g3 and jump to the conclusion that everyone out there interested in network security is a little kid with a script who wants to write cryptic messages about owning so-and-so and playing games on irc. Beneath this superficial layer is a group of extremely dedicated advocates of freedom, truth, fair treatment, free information, sharing, exploration, curiosity, and knowledge, a true counter-culture which has remained steadfast as a vanguard against injustices perpetrated by the government, by corporations, by authoritarians. Yes, sometimes people think they go too far and probably suspect they're characters in a post-apolocyptic sci-fi movie. Still, the diversity among these people who get written off as “crackers” is such that it is unfair to characterize the group as a whole, and it is true that you will often find refreshingly decent, compassionate values. Likewise for the NetBSD and FreeBSD communities. While I am sure that Linux types view them as competition, the BSD daemon is horribly cute, and last COMDEX they did have a girl in red vinyl... There have got to be good ideas floating around, and I'm not so sure we want to keep misunderstanding and/or ignoring each other.

The press has some excuse for misunderstanding computers, security, Linux, hacking, cracking, and technology in general. Everyone knows the press is stupid and intentionally misunderstands things for the sake of a more palatable story. However, Linux hackers, open source advocates, free software enthusiasts and, I'll say it at the risk of offending a whole lot of people, hackers across the board, would do well to understand each other, and stop laughing when tragedy befalls people like Kevin. “So, have ya freed Kevin yet?” isn't so funny when you're Kevin. First, they ignored us, then they laughed at us...

Getting back to Kevin

Kevin became a figure in the security hacking scene both for his innocent openness (he'd operate under the name Kevin Mitnick), and adherence to the hacker code: he never damaged data or altered it in any way, he never stole, and he never profitted from his extraordinary abilities.

Today, Kevin is legally forbidden from profiting from his “crimes”, whereas there is no such provision to prevent John Markoff from profiting from what I would call his crimes against journalistic integrity, civility and honesty. This case is just another example of how a few evil people, playing on the fear, cowardice, and authoritarian brutality of the federal government, can ruin a person's life, make a lot of money, and set a legal precedent launching a War on Computing which we can expect will trample over civil liberties with as much impunity as the War on Drugs.

Maybe you didn't come to Kevin's aid when the government came down on him. But let's just hope that when the government goes after you, someone will be there to protect you. Although it's crass and crude to make self-interest ploys (as in “do this because it's in your own interest!” as opposed to “let's do this because it's morally the right thing to do!”), self-interest at least is a powerful argument for standing up against the War on Computing.

I don't believe in or advocate self-interest arguments, so let's put it another way. Kevin Mitnick is a human being, just like you, and just like me, who lives on the same planet at the same time, evolved from the same animals, sees, hears, touches, tastes, smells, perceives the world in the same way as the rest of us. A miracle of 4 billion years of evolution, like each and every one of us. He is also a human being who has been abused by a zealous government, indeed years of his life have been stolen and his name tarnished. Who knows how years of stress, spending time in solitary confinement as holidays and seasons drift by, endlessly awaiting trial for crimes so minor it's hard to imagine they could warrant jail time, being victimized by hateful authority figures who giggle and laugh at his misery (as the judge was heard doing) have affected him. How would they affect you? How does it affect you to know that the everyday miracles of human ability to be aware, to think, to walk one leg in front of the other, to open doors and fetch jars, to see, to dream, to feel, are held hostage at the whim of authority with little justification or compassion?

Remember that the full weight of the law can be brought down on anyone, for a range of offenses such as using the wrong cryptography algorithms, sending cryptography programs across the border (making one a terrorist arms smuggler), running emulations of old games on MAME (violating copyright law), downloading an mp3, having a user on your ISP who has something illegal, possessing or distributing a copy of DeCSS, trying to write a DVD player for Linux, or even accidentally using some patented code in an free software project. Wars on one thing or another, drugs or computing (as Clifford Stoll notes, we're both called “users”), always have victims. These people are all human beings, most of whom have lives and friends whom they would miss dearly were they incarcerated for these minor and arbitrary offenses. What is the cost of living in a world where one false step can bring a vicious government down on an individual? Thomas Jefferson warned against the practice of creating crimes in order to punish them, but that is exactly what the government is doing. We in the United States have more of our population imprisoned than any other country, more even than Fascist or Communist nations, and there is probably a reason for this. The ultimate point, however, which has probably been lost by now, is only that empathy makes us all the wiser. Hopefully empathy will lead us to solutions for these problems.

The People United

A troupe of unarmed citizens recently chased the military out of my neighborhood when we were last invaded at the whim of our less than popular mayor. I refer of course, to the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle during the World Trade Organization protests last fall. The sheer number of us backed up the cops to a street corner. Although they were armed with gas, concussion grenades, riot gear and the whole lot, and could not lose face by leaving the hill altogether (authoritarians will destroy the world before backing down), after 2a.m., they took off when most us had gone home (it was a Wednesday night). The point is not just to share war stories, but to illustrate that sheer numbers of united people can counter illegimate authority.

In the case of computers, it has been one long frustration, the lack of respect Linux hackers often have for system “crackers” (to be politically correct, this is a Linux site after all), and indeed for the lack of Linux enthusiasm among the latter. It is true that Linux folks have shown up at HOPE to show off the GNU/Linux OS, but there is an air of disinterest about the struggles of the respective communities—which does not make sense as these struggles seem wholly philosophically consistent. Indeed, the divisions seem based on intentional misunderstanding, with even a twinge of elitism. However, it seems inevitable; the harder and faster the government assaults us, the more it will drive us together. Although it plays on the same “us versus them” instincts that have cursed humanity throughout history, the hope is that it will actually unite us. Like Linux, in which we are establishing a legacy of freedom, everyone has his or her own reasons for participating. Some activists will be purely rational, interested in what is objectively best for technological progress. Some will be self-interested, concerned with preserving and protecting their own liberties, and indeed some will be motivated to uphold freedom, community and principles. All of this, of course, presupposes that somehow in time there will be greater unity, and this in turn depends on the tactics of the government and the responses/necessities of various communities.

Never Again

Kevin Mitnick may have suffered for years at the hands of federal aggression, but his ordeal is winding down. We failed to make a big enough commotion, maybe because we weren't as Internet savvy when the whole affair started, maybe because we were preoccupied with short-sighted selfish concerns, or maybe we just didn't understand the situation and couldn't take the time to learn. The stigma of “hacker” prejudiced many away from the cause, including individuals and organizations who really should have known better. Many people discarded the whole affair, saying simply: “well, I don't like Kevin” without ever understanding the deeper significant issues, or even knowing that they exist. Kevin has been released now, though he is not truly free. He has not, in fact, been truly free since his arrest in 1989. The nightmare he has been subjected to at federal hands has about three years left to run its course. At that time, a nearly middle-aged Kevin can try to recover and salvage what remains of the years ahead. At least the Linux kernel will be far along, so he'll have something to look forward to, but that's not much consolation.

The government got away with some big injustices, while personal hatred, prejudice and, worst of all, apathy, prevented larger numbers from coming to Kevin's support. Too many people in this world were concerned only with themselves, only with their immediate gains. They were too self-centered even to think about the plight of others long enough to realize that our fates are collective and that standing up for any human is standing up for all humans, including oneself. Pardon the trite Sixties diatribe.

Fortunately, we now have a massive information network, raised awareness and heightened sensitivity to injustice. Since this affair was exposed, many people have lost what little faith remained in the so-called justice system and the government's feigned respect for civil rights. Many have realized that victims of the government are sometimes not evil people, but merely victims of a malicious government. It is a similar realization to the understanding that laws define what is legal and not what is moral. Because of this awareness and sensitivity to future anti-computing spectacles perpetrated by the authorities, it is unlikely that the government will be able to pull off an injustice of this magnitude against an individual computer user without massive backlash and protest. As we said to the police during last November's WTO protest, as we knelt on the pavement while being sprayed with gas and concussion grenades, “the world is watching.”

All Together

Although it seems premature to make such an assessment at this point, it appears the struggle for the new era is not about right versus left, one country opposed to another, one religion against the other, but bottom against top, the powerless against the powerful, the would-be free against the authoritarians. In our case, this movement is a struggle for the survival of computing in the face of ignorant, but strong authority, a crusade not specific to any one community in particular, but crucial to everyone who could benefit from technological progress and civil liberty. If we form bonds of solidarity across the computing horizon, we will not be moved, we will not be defeated. Freedom is not only an efficiency that drives value and a desirable self-serving end, but a moral imperative. All roads lead to Rome, and computer community ideologies—Linux world domination, open source, free source, hacking/cracking/phreaking ethos, cypherpunk et al.—point to freedom. Free as in beer. Free as in speech. Free as in FREE KEVIN.

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